Former Wakefield Trinity, St Helens and Wales International Anthony Walker has been appointed as the new head coach of the Wales under 19 rugby league side.
He will lead the under 19s in the forthcoming European Championships and will remain as head coach of the side until at least December 2020.
The 26-year old retired from playing in October last year on medical grounds but is no stranger to coaching having juggled the latter days of his playing career with coaching Blackbrook in the north of England based National Conference League, guiding them to promotion in 2016 and picking up a local coach of the year award in the process.
Since his retirement from playing he has progressed to coaching in the professional game, working as a first team assistant coach at another of his former clubs, Rochdale Hornets, in the RFL Championship.
Walker, who also played for Whitehaven and Dewsbury Rams in his professional rugby league career, is Wales RL heritage #489 after winning eight caps and scoring three tries. He was in the side when Wales won the European Championship in 2015 after beating France, Scotland (where he scored a try) and Ireland.
He is delighted to be bringing through the next crop of potential Wales World Cup players.
He said: “I’m made up to have been appointed. When I saw the post, I contacted Wales CEO Chris Thair immediately. I’ve been coaching a lot since retiring and I want to give something back to WRL after they were so good to me whilst going through the retirement.
“We’ll be going into this summer’s Under 19 European Championship with the aim of winning the trophy.”
Wales won this trophy when it was last contested as under 18 competition in 2008, beating Czech Republic, England and France and a number of those Wales players went on to win full Wales caps.
Walker continues: “My aim is to make Wales U19s as successful as possible and help create some future full Wales international players. However I want to make coming into camp as much of an honour as it was for me and for the lads to have some fun along the way.
“I won the senior European Championship as a player and I want to make memories for life for these group of lads, just like playing for Wales has done for me.”
Walker will be assisted by Wayne Ponting, who last year served as assistant coach to the Wales under 16s, under 18s and Student sides. He was previously involved with the Welsh regional academies, the South Wales Scorpions and Celtic Crusaders academy and scholarship sides after cutting his coaching teeth with Blackwood Bulldogs juniors.
The final appointment sees Steve Jenkins from Llanelli appointed as team manager.
Jenkins is a newcomer to Rugby League but boasts an impressive CV having been involved in a variety of managerial roles in rugby union with Llanelli RFC, Carmarthen Quins, the Scarlets and the Welsh Rugby Union.
Jenkins said: “From working in Rugby Union I have gained experience both with Scarlets and the WRU which I feel will assist me in the team manager role.
“During my time with the Scarlets I gained experience under coaches Gareth Jenkins and for Phil Davies where I was his team manager when he took the Scarlets to their last Semi Final of the European Cup in 2007. Additionally, working for the WRU was challenging and I understand the high standards that are set to help to run an international side.
“I am really looking forward to joining up with WRL under 19’s coaches Anthony and Wayne, and experiencing the challenges that lay ahead in preparing the squad for the European Under 19 Championship in August this year.”